EDINBURG – New faces filled the RGV Vipers practice facility Monday as the NBA G League affiliate of the NBA’s Houston Rockets returned to the Valley after 604 days away due to COVID-19 and began their quest for a league-best fourth G League championship.
Not all of the players on the finalized training camp roster are new to the Vipers, but they are new to playing in the Rio Grande Valley. Most have yet to even see their home court, Bert Ogden Arena.
“They’ve only been around the practice facility so far,” third-year head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah said. “I’m just thankful to be in the RGV. It’s been close to two years since we had a game down here. I told the guys how fortunate we are to have the facilities we have and the arena we have. They haven’s seen the arena, but they’ve all kind of heard. “
The Vipers finalized their training camp roster earlier Monday with 13 players. Of those, only Trhae Mitchell and Trevelin Queen are returners from last year’s squad, which played in a bubble and a shortened season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando Fla.
The roster ranges in size from 6-foot-2 Christian Vital from the University of Connecticut to 6-foot-9 Mfiondu Kabengele from Florida State. Most, however, are in the 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-8 range.
The Vipers selected guard Jimond Ivey with the 77th overall pick of the 2021 G League Draft After the draft, the Vipers acquired Alan Griffin from the Santa Cruz Warriors and, in a three-team trade, picked up guard Lindsey Drew from the Maine Celtics.
“The front office has done a good job and, you guys know how it goes, we will see throughout the week who performs,” Abdelfattah said. “It’s good to have numbers of guys that are versatile. Some guys will do a number of things better than others and they’ll separate themselves. Players will get called up, traded, may not be around, have injuries so it’s good to have versatility and depth at multiple positions.”
Abdelfattah said his year coaching in the bubble gave him a chance to grow in just about every area, the biggest being in gaining experience. He is in his fifth year overall as a Vipers coach, spending his first two years under head coach James Blair. He won a G League championship in 2019, the team’s third title.
“There’s nothing like gaining experience,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a good grasp of everything, but you’re always learning and growing. I feel feel real comfortable being able to teach what we are about especially in Houston.
“I feel we have a talented group again this year,” he added when asked about the attraction to the Vipers in the community. “We’ve made the playoffs the past five years, won a championship, we score the most points and we shoot 3s. I’m looking forward to seeing all our fans back for that first game.”
The Vipers open the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5 at home against the Austin Spurs.